THE HILL: A 2012 agenda we should all agree on
By Rep. Fred Upton -
Jobs. That’s our 2012 agenda in a word. Looking for a few more words? Look no further than recent recommendations from the president’s jobs council. Developed by business leaders hand-picked by this administration, the jobs council report affirms the pro-jobs policies championed by House Republicans for the last year, and it offers a real opportunity for consensus in a year that many political observers have already written off to gridlock.
The Energy and Commerce Committee finds itself at the intersection of major opportunities in some of the most promising sectors of our economy, from energy development to medical innovation to next-generation communications networks. A common thread among them is the need for government to support economic growth instead of stifling it. Washington must clear the path to new frontiers instead of erecting roadblocks.
The president’s jobs council agrees with that approach.
The jobs council says to “adopt an ‘all-in’ strategy on energy.” We continue to champion “all of the above” when it comes to energy supplies, promoting development of safe and secure North American resources. We’re also focused on leveling the playing field so that all energy sources — from oil and gas to nuclear and renewable — have a chance to compete in the marketplace without government barriers.
In the coming year, that means fighting for pro-jobs, pro-energy projects like the Keystone XL oil pipeline. After more than three years of study and public input, and more than four months after the State Department completed the final environmental review, President Obama recently rejected this pipeline on the grounds that more time is needed. But to borrow his phrase, “we can’t wait” any longer to build this pipeline that will connect Canadian energy supplies to refineries in the United States. If Obama cannot say yes to jobs, Congress will.
And we won’t stop there. Keystone XL is but one of many energy development projects caught up in a web of government red tape. To make it easier for all types of energy to transform from a bright idea to a powerful new reality, we plan to streamline energy permitting processes.
The energy sector is not the only area where government bureaucracy stands in the way of innovation. Our healthcare sector is similarly stymied by delays that are preventing life-saving and life-improving technologies from reaching the market.
We spent the last year laying the groundwork for FDA reform as Congress prepares to extend the Prescription Drug User Fee Act, the Medical Device User Fee Act and related new initiatives that will help bring generic and biosimilar drugs to market. For medical devices in particular, we learned that unnecessary delays in the pre-market approval process are keeping American patients from accessing technologies developed by innovative American companies. As we extend these programs, we have an opportunity to improve the review and approval process, maintaining important safeguards for safety while allowing cutting-edge products to reach the patients who need them.
The president’s jobs council says we need to “revitalize the American manufacturing sector,” and our Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee will be hard at work to do just that. It began last year with hearings on innovation and job creation in the 21st century, and it will continue this year with a closer look at how we can increase American exports and create a more competitive business climate here at home.
One of the most compelling recommendations of the president’s jobs council is the call to “enhance American competitiveness through smart regulatory reforms.” The very first hearing convened by the Energy and Commerce Committee in 2011 was on regulatory reform, and from there, we have devoted significant time and attention to easing the regulatory burdens that act like a wet blanket on the American economy.
Whether it’s the train wreck of regulations on the energy sector or the thousands of pages of new rules written to enforce the controversial healthcare law, regulations are the root of lingering economic uncertainty and job loss. Our approach has been to promote regulatory common sense. We believe federal agencies should only write rules that are needed, that those rules should be achievable in the real world, and that affected industries should have enough time to come into compliance without being forced to close their doors.
These are just a few of the ideas from the president’s jobs council, and a few of the ideas that will be pursued by the Energy and Commerce Committee in the year ahead. We spent the last year focused on job creation, and we will continue that focus as long as families continue to struggle and job creators remain on the economic sidelines. The recommendations from the president’s jobs council are a welcome sign that consensus can be reached on sensible solutions to promote job creation, stand up for taxpayers and protect individuals, families and communities.
Upton is chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.